A few weeks ago at a blogger meetup I had the pleasure of meeting the dynamic duo of Assemble Shop & Studio, Andie Powers and Emily Grosse. In 2009 they started Assemble Gallery & Studio in Phinney Ridge integrating a gallery, workshop studio, and a retail shop to host creativity of all kinds.
Named Seattle Magazine’s Best Of 2010 and one of SeattlePicks.compicks, back in January they decided to transfer the business to a completely online entity as Assemble Shop & Studio. They still continue tutorials in online video form and workshop kits which you can order from our website and do at home.
Their mission: to honor craft as modern art, while teaching both traditional and avant-garde crafting techniques to a broader, internet audience. Assemble also offers an online shop full of hand-made and design-inspired gifts. Let’s me them, shall we?
How did you two meet and decide to combine your forces into Assemble.
EG – Andie and I met while working at Paper Source together about five years ago and shared a love of craft and design. We had formed a pipe dream based off an idea Andie had long before, that one day we’d open a shop of our own that was part retail, part workshop studio, part gallery, all with a focus on modern crafting.
It didn’t take long to make that a reality! Andie had a background in boutique retail and an amazing design sense. I had experience in teaching workshops and curating art shows. Our collaboration on Assemble came so naturally.
Your shop is full of lovely products made by local designers. How do you decide who and what you will carry?
EG – Thanks! In the beginning, we had a list of “must have” designers, trying to keep a clean, modern and fun aesthetic. We scoured Etsy and art blogs for inspiration and leads. Soon, we started getting submissions and word of mouth references. Our shop has always been a mix of designers that we personally love.
AP – Most of our designers and artists were found on blogs, websites and Etsy. We contacted them, hoping that we could work together. Some of them actually found us, and it was a lucky combination!
As they sing inThe Wonder Pets******, ” ‘What’s gonna work? Teamwork!’ ” as a duo, you must work well together to get the job done. Is there a secret to the success of your partnership?**
AP – Communication is key to being partners. If we weren’t able to be honest, open and real with each other, this never would have worked. When one of us is off, the other is on, and vice versa. It’s nice to always have a sounding board for ideas and a friendship that supports the business as well.
EG – Ha ha. Having a two year old, I’m familiar with the motto. We didn’t realize it at the time, but our compatibility has been crucial to the business. We compliment each others’ strengths and weaknesses. Andie likes design and blogging. I like working face-to-face with people and I focus on research and numbers. We trade off moments of perfectionism and easy-going attitudes, of big picture and small detail concepts. Somehow, that part comes easily to us, and we’re lucky.
Andie, as if you aren’t busy enough, you have recently launched your own freelance writing and brand consulting site,AndiePowers.com. What made you decide to take this next step?
AP – My true love in working terms is writing. I went to college for writing and publishing and it has always come easily and naturally for me and it’s been easy for me to find work writing copy or for blogs (I also write for Apartment Therapy).
When we decided to transition online, I decided it would be nice to have a side business that can help financially support my family while we are using Assemble funds to go in lots of new and exciting directions.
Emily, you are also a busy mama of two little ones. How do you attempt to balance it all?
EG – I appreciate the word “attempt” because that is all I can do! I wake up each day and hope the kiddos are happy and nap and give me just enough time to answer a few emails.
Honestly, working from home with a two year old and a two month old is more difficult than I expected, but I’m grateful for a gracious and hard-working partner like Andie, and a dedicated husband who is willing to make dinner and do laundry. I think the key is prioritizing and keeping a schedule, but I’m still working on how to juggle it all.
I cannot knit, crochet or sew…I can replace a button on a shirt and that’s the extent of my skills. Which of your adorable kits would be good for beginners like me?
EG – All of our kits are designed with beginners in mind, and we tried to be thoughtful in our directions and diagrams. Needle felting is probably the most user-friendly. Crochet takes more practice, and the bookbinding kits taking a little more time, but don’t be afraid to try them — they’re fun! We are working on instructional videos, as well, to help the creative hopefuls. Andie and I will be teaching workshops around town for those that prefer in-person demonstrations.
AP – With our Kickstarter being so close to being funded, perhaps our future stamping kit will be the best ones for you! Stamp in ink, stamp on paper. Simple as that!
Do you have a go-to business tool or resource? What are your have favorite blogs and websites you like to visit when you have time?
EG – When we started Assemble, we referenced SBA and SCORE to help us really understand the details, the foundation of growing a business. Once we got going, though, our resources became more inspirational. I love blogs such The Purl Bee, How About Orange, A Beautiful Mess for crafting and DesignMom and A Cup Of Jo for lifestyle and mommy-style ideas.
AP – Everything that Emily said. In terms of blogging, definitely check out Melanie Biehle’s ebook Blog With Purpose I took a few business accounting classes at a community college right before we started Assemble, but I found them difficult to apply to a creative small business. Go Mighty and I decided to team up and run an online class that might be beneficial for anyone who is looking for advice, called Scratch to Success: Starting Your Own Creative Small Business. Plus there’s prizes to be won!
Check outmy write-upfor more information and a discount code for 25% off her online class!
I love to ask everyone I interview, if you are stranded on a desert island and can take one item and one meal, what would they be?
EG – The practical side of me would take a Swiss Army knife, the romantic in me would take pictures of my family. For a meal, I’d have to have pizza. I love pizza. And rum.
AP – I would take a crossbow. Duh. And Thanksgiving dinner.
Thanks, Andie and Emily, for playing along! Stay tuned for the next ISWAI…